Expecting the Unexpected

Yes I am 37 weeks pregnant but no this post is not about the eternally popular “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” book or the not too successful summer movie of the same title. But while we’re briefly on the topic, there has been one unexpected nuance to the new baby prep around our house. After much late night, “I should be asleep but my mind is racing” mental room-rearranging, I bought a smaller bookshelf, Drew assembled it, and we moved books and toys out of Eli and Andi’s room to make room for a crib. The idea is 3 kids, 3 beds, 2 dressers, some books, some toys, and some sanity to all fit in ONE room. The space was carved out and I felt GREAT about the new arrangement. We only needed to insert the crib into the crib space. After almost 2 hours of work, during which Drew and I didn’t even come close to arguing (world record!!!), we realized, the crib was HUGE and the space too small. The room is currently in this state of disarray: What you can’t see in the photo is the large rocking chair and ottoman and the small dresser that will house this new one’s clothes. We thought it would fit well. It doesn’t. The choice now: Play “If you give a mouse a cookie…” around our house. “If you put up a large crib in the kids’ room, you’ll have to move the rocking chair. If you move the rocking chair you’ll have to move the china hutch from the family room. If you move the china hutch….” That’s as far as I can think and I’m already as tired as the little boy on the last page. I’ve never liked that book very well…it induces stress!

When unexpected events happen in life, stress, results. Foundations shaken, normalcy upset, established norms demolished, dreams and hopes ended…this is the carnage of life’s upsets. Most unexpected events aren’t as dismal as some of those words but some are so devastating, words cannot capture the pain. I read a story of an 11month old ran over at a Northland church yesterday…unimaginable shock, pain, tragedy. A friend faces shock and a now uncertain future as he went from pursuing an adoption with his wife to facing a divorce with the same wife after one life-altering conversation two weeks ago. For me, the last few years have held their share of the, not as tragic but still apple-cart upsetting experiences, of the unexpected:

1. My parents were divorced after 35 years of marriage last October

2. Drew changed jobs in the Spring of 2010 from YL staff to Financial services

3. We sent Elijah to kindergarten from THIS house. When we bought it 6 years ago and read the elementary school that coincided with this address, I literally said out-loud, “That doesn’t matter in the least. We will not still¬† live here when we send this unborn child to school!!!”

4. My good friends moved.

This is a post mostly about number 4.

I got a phone call while I was in the parking lot of a Chili’s in the early Spring of 2006. On the other end of the phone was Carol Graves. I knew her then primarily as a mother of one of the YL girls I took to camp the previous summer. She explained that day that we lived close to each other in the neighborhood and that she and her husband would like to start babysitting for our 8 month old son so that we could go on regular dates. We took her up on the offer which began a great family friendship.

Over the next two years, the oldest Graves daughter Melissa would begin babysitting for Eli regularly for Drew and I on YL club nights. We would attend Melissa’s graduation party and get to know Michelle, the younger Graves daughter as she dabbled in Young Life and became a babysitter as well. Mike Graves is a seminary professor and was always willing to provide stimulating theological conversation and books during my 4 1/2 years of MDIV studying.¬† Carol and Mike had us over for dinner regularly, always including us in rib smoking or most any new recipe they wanted to try out. We were grateful for the friendship, the open back door, the interest in our children, and the thoughtfulness that constantly came through in calls, check-ins, random things they’d pick up that our kids would love, and the neighborliness- help with moving things, borrowing tools, exchanging rides to the airport, and the consistent babysitting!

The list goes on and on with the years. In a 5-plus year friendship with all 4 members of the KC Graves family (their oldest son Michael always lived out of town and we enjoyed his friendship as well during visits!), there were numerous blessings:

-Mike made Eli golf clubs when he was 2 and took him golfing when he was obsessed with it as a 2 and 3 year old.

-Michelle and Melissa were Andi’s earliest visitors once we returned home from the hospital with her. Andi took some of her first steps at Michelle’s high school graduation party.

-Michelle came to Castaway as a friend of mine and a nanny in the summer of 2011 when I was the Summer Staff coordinator. She was an epically wonderful caretaker of the kids and stepped up when I was losing it during the first transitional days.

-Carol and I started walking regularly at a super quick pace (Carol set it, I tried to keep up) around a great 3 mile loop during which we would process life, listen, and enter in.

-Melissa graduated from MU with honors and her Philosophy of Religion degree and decided that with all her brains and beauty, she’d dorn chef pants and oven mitts and become a pastry chef. We are the satisfied recipients of many a tasty treat from Melissa’s kitchen! (Just ask Drew about the lemon bars and he’ll close his eyes and smile. )

-We spent afternoons at the pool, evenings on their deck and racing around their yard per Eli’s request, nights at Royal’s games, mornings receiving bagels on our door step from the “bagel fairy” who always drove a car soo similar to the Graves’ vehicles, and time on the phone just about any time of day or night.

-We watched Grey’s Antatomy with wine and goat cheese every week last year and Carol brought the kids home from school almost every Tuesday and Thursday (see previous Golden Year post- these are attributes of the golden greatness from last year).

-Michelle goes to college and grad school in California and still we connect as good friends over the phone in long calls.

This is a small smattering of the innumerable blessings and connectedness we shared. When I list my best friends, there are 3 Graves women on the list.

So, when the idea that they were putting their house up for sale was voiced early this summer, I was befuddled. This was so unexpected! They were established, their house was big enough, they’d lived here for over a decade. I was the one who was supposed to move out of my house, they were the reason I was staying sane in this small space when we decided we couldn’t get move. They (and the great pool and proximity to my Hyvee) were the reason I considered never moving from this neighborhood- merely finding a bigger house within it. MOVING?! Surely not!?!

Alas, after ups and downs and “maybe we’ll buy a house in this neighborhood”, unexpected but great news came their way in late June. They had a buyer for their house and found a house they liked and would purchase…in LIBERTY- 15 miles and 20 minutes away. Just a slight jump in traveling distance from the 3 minute walk to their back door that I did weekly and that my kids could do on scooters and bikes at 2 years of age!- Sarcasm is heavy here.

Michelle broke the news to me while I was headed to the pool with their pool pass on a Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t help it and cried as we talked of the reality that they were moving, that God was leading them in this process, and that change was coming. New and different were ahead of us in 1 short month. I sat behind my sunglasses crying while we talked for 20 minutes. Then I proceeded to swim my laps, while crying, in goggles, while still trying to breathe and cry at the same time. After 10 of these pitiful laps, I went home, and asked Drew to hold me. (Let’s note emotions were high as I was 26 weeks pregnant!)

Before we went to Castaway we had a “last supper”, during which Melissa and Michelle sent Eli on a birthday scavenger hunt through the kids’ favorite places in their house ending with his birthday present of a skateboard. Andi was awarded a final trip to her sweet spot-the closet with the fruit snacks just for her in the garage. When we returned from Castaway, the house was in boxes and we had a true “last supper” on paper plates. I made it through without crying that night.

Unexpected changes bring pain and emptiness. Pain and emptiness voids precede healing and a refill. The Graves moving brought a crazy turn of events as the buyers of their house turned out to be friends of Drew’s from Oak Park days. A precious new family, the potential for peer friendship and new neighborly community- God’s hand providing for them and giving us a new opportunity where I once could only see loss. We are grateful that Tom and Bonnie and Everett are in our neighborhood now! What a humbling spot to sit, letting go and getting to receive an unexpected gift.

Geography doesn’t define friendship- this I knew that day in the pool, with the tear filled goggles. The Graves moving to a different house would change the daily dynamic of our friendship but wouldn’t change the soul of it. We are connected with love and stories, history and care that can cross many more miles than the 10 we have to drive on HWY 152 now.

Melissa came with bagels on Eli’s first day of school. Last week Carol drove all the way out here to walk with me on our old route at 6:45am. And today, I called Carol to see if a crib she offered me last Spring was by any chance still available. “Why sure!” she drawled, “Of course, and I’m here tonight if you want to come get it.” Fortunate once again to have the connection, generosity and resources that they’ve offered for the past 5 years come in an instant, E and A and I drove to Liberty to grab a crib.

The crib is perfect. And now the disarray of the unexpected non-fitting crib is fixed. No cookie for this mouse! But I should bake some cookies for Carol. And for Bonnie as well.

 

 

 

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